From my vantage point it seems that those most affected by the events of the last year are our kids and our elders. I’m proud to say I have witnessed professionals in both groups giving it their all to make the best of the situations the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon us.
My son is in the 8th grade and has admittedly struggled with the different structures through which his learning is now facilitated. More of the work is done online, with textbooks being a thing of the pre-pandemic past. His teachers have valiantly and creatively done the best they can to engage and educate. He has vacillated between frustration and determination. He was recently able to participate in something that resembled normalcy: Sacred Heart participants in the Center Stage Theatre Program were able to present a stage production of “Clue” to a limited and masked audience. The joy positively radiated from the children who were finally free to express themselves onstage in front of an audience. Their directors (Abi Allen and Olivia Drinkwater) and their friends and family beamed with pride right back at them. It was a priceless experience, and for a few moments we were all transported into the world the kids were creating onstage, in the way that can only be experienced through the vehicle of live performances. As Caden took his final bow, my heart swelled with pride, not just for my son, but for everyone involved for putting in the extra work of masked and staggered rehearsals.
Each day at work, I am surrounded by a community of active seniors who have chosen to make their home at The Claiborne in our independent living community. The majority of our residents came to us not out of medical necessity, but out of a desire to get the most of their retirement years with their peers. Early last year, we were forced to limit visits to the building out of an abundance of caution. Our residents were asked to stay in their apartments, and we delivered meals. The “lockdown” lasted through May of last year, after which visitors were again allowed, and we were able to reopen our dining room with additional distancing requirements. We stopped going out for activities and events, something that was a hallmark of our existence before. Instead, the community rallied. We’ve held parades, hosted safe-distance activities, and residents, family members and the Hattiesburg community have all stepped up to operate within the parameters of our new normal. Not once during all of this have I ever felt that our residents would be better off somewhere else. Even with the change in social activities, they continue to be safe, creatively engaged, and well-cared for, just as they should be.
We’ve weathered this storm together, and it has made us stronger.
I am hopeful that the vaccination will offer much-needed relief from the ever-present COVID threat. Certainly none of us asked for the pandemic, but across the board, in my personal and professional life, and in the Hattiesburg community as a whole, I think that we owe it to ourselves to congratulate ourselves and each other for doing the hard work that had to be done to ensure the safety and quality of life for our kids and our elders.
It has been exhausting at times, but it is a true labor of love.
I see you, Hattiesburg, and I’m proud of you.
Cathy Eaker lives in the downtown Hattiesburg area.